How to choose the right photography conference

Choosing the Right Photography Conference for You

I believe that continuing education is incredibly important: it keeps you sharp, makes sure that you aren’t becoming stale in your work, and revitalizes low spirits and energy after a long wedding season.  With my work season jam-packed into four or five short months every year, I can tell you that a dose of inspiration is essential to my spring!  That being said, there are a gazillion workshops and conferences out there to choose from, from the small to the massive.  Choosing the right photography conference for you is a hard task.  How do you know where to focus your energy and hard earned dollars?  Where do you put your focus?

The first thing that matters to me when choosing a conference is WHY and I have three of them.  They very rarely overlap in the conference world.  I’m either going: 1) to put my hands on products, 2) to master or learn a new skill, or finally, 3) for inspiration and networking. 

Choose the Right Photography Conference

 

1. Go to photography conferences to put your hands on products.

Every three years, I head to one of the big two, which are Imaging USA and WPPI, simply because their expo is the easiest place to source out vendors for client products and new technology.  From USB drives, to album companies, to camera manufacturers, you’ll be able to touch and feel anything you can dream up out of the thousands of exhibitors at these expos.  With quality face to face time with the brand reps themselves, you can often purchase new gear on site at a discounted rate, and secure lower pricing for bulk orders from print labs and product manufacturers.  

While the big 2 certainly offer a wealth of networking drunken debauchery and parties, along with “conference” sessions intended to impart photography wisdom on you, I’m a pretty firm believer that the best learning isn’t crammed into a giant convention hall and a one hour talk, nor is the best networking done at an event where there are thousands of people.  

Choose the Right Photography Conference

2.  Go to a photography workshop to master or learn a new skill.

Small hands on workshops lend themselves to more in depth dissection of key skills.  A few years ago, I attended Azulox Photography’s Anytime Light workshop in Austin, TX.  With only 8 students and a full day dedicated exclusively to difficult lighting scenarios, I walked away feeling significantly more comfortable using off camera flash and strobes to make sure that I could handle anything.  

Last year, I attended the Missouri Photo Workshop in Perryville, MO for hands on learning in photojournalism.  Guided and mentored by world renowned  freelance photojournalists and photo editors, I came away with a better understanding of gaining access, shooting, and creating photo essays. 

I try to narrow down what I want my focus to be for the year in learning and choose a small format mentorship, workshop or online resource that fits that ideal.  If you’re interested in pursuing family lifestyle sessions, I would recommend looking into mentorship by Kristen Lewis.   If you love my moment-filled portrait and wedding work and want to improve on drawing the same reactions out of your own clients, I would recommend starting with Candice Cusic’s Moment Driven Workshop in Chicago.

Choose the Right Photography Conference

3. Get inspired and network

There is no conference more inspirational to me than Fearless Conference Europe.  (Tip: to save a buck or two, there is one in the USA every November as well).  Huy with Fearless Photographers has made a pointed effort to create conferences that are diverse, filled with women, and welcoming.  It’s incredibly easy to network at Fearless Europe – everyone is so incredibly open.  I walk away every year with nuggets of incredible inspiration and a new stamp on my passport to boot.

Other great medium sized events that offer a wealth of fun, inspiration and networking opportunities include Field Trip and Laura Babb’s incredible Snap Photography Festival.  

How to choose the right photography conference

What to Take With You

Don’t forget to fill your pockets with business cards, branded koozies (a must for me), and lots of smiles.  Remember that everyone at a photography conference is there for the same reason: to learn, to grow and to meet like minded people.  As such, open yourself up to opportunities.  Say yes to new things, new people and new conversations. Don’t sit with people you know: find someone new every day.  Be welcoming, smile, and make it a point to open up conversations to include strangers who happen upon your group.  Introduce yourself to others and extend invitations and you’ll walk away with a lifetime of laughter, friends and perhaps some new skills.

Start Small

Eventbrite makes it easy to attend and organize events.  So easy, in fact, that there are dozens of small format photography classes and events on there near you.  Take a portrait photography master class!  Learn how to get started in bird photography!  Learn the ins and outs of food photography!  I just ended up in a rabbit hole of options and I barely even got started.

Where will you find me next?  

I’ll be at Mystic Seminars this January because I’m desperate to hear Pete Souza speak, and the Fearless Conference Europe in Split, Croatia this March.  As usual, you’ll also find me running amok, networking, taking photos and basically drunk everyday at SXSW 2018, which is like everything the photography world has to offer on steroids.  

Anytime Light

2015 Wedding Photography Workshops | California | Education

I am a huge proponent of continued education, no matter what your field of work is.  The most amazing part of my job is that the only person I’m in competition with is myself.  I know that I can always be better and one of my goals this year was to attend at least two photography workshops, one that was wedding focused and one that was not.  I’m excited that I’m certainly going to go above and beyond this goal by attending numerous 2015 wedding photography workshops.

Learning in Action at the Anytime Light Workshop in January. Photo by Josh Baker, AzulOx

This past January, I traveled to Austin, TX to attend the Anytime Light Workshop from Azul Ox Visuals.  Azul Ox’s team creates dramatically different images than I normally do: bold cinematic photography with exceptional use of OCF.  It’s extremely important to be able to modify light to your needs: I would never want to turn down a portrait session simply because their only available time slot was noon.  At this small, intensive, hands on workshop we learned how to photograph at high noon in the Texas Sun while mitigating strong overhead light with all the tools available at our disposal.  From there, we worked on interior head shot lighting, sunset lighting with speedlights for dramatic evening portraits and finally, portraits in the dark after nightfall.

Austin Portrait Photographer

Turning day into night with strobes: anytime light! Photo by Lauren Lindley.

I was so impressed by the entire experience, I’m bringing Anytime Light to Tahoe for an extended three day workshop.  This workshop will give hands on experience, provide portfolio building images, and extensive learning for the small batch of students in one of the most gorgeous locations California has to offer.

Anytime Light Lake Tahoe still has spots available.  I honestly cannot impress upon you how amazing this workshop was in reiterating, reinforcing, and reminding me of all the tools I have at my disposal during a wedding or portrait session.  If you attend Anytime Light Lake Tahoe, you’ll learn everything you need to know about OCF (off camera flash) including how your flash power and distance and camera decisions work together.  You’ll learn about all the light modifiers you have to choose from and why and when to use them.  You’ll learn what type of OCF to use.  Speedlight? Strobe?  During all of this, you’ll be able to build your portfolio using real models at styled shoots in one of the most gorgeous locations on the planet!  I can’t imaging a better way to experience an OCF Workshop this year.  In addition, model Jennifer Lynn Larson is going to do a session on communicating with models per my request because I actually found that communicating with professional models and my lack of knowledge on this topic hindered my ability to get the types of images I wanted at the workshop in January.

Whether you are new to wedding photography or an established professional, this 2015 OCF workshop will help reinforce the knowledge you need to have to create the best images possible for your clients, despite the light conditions you experience.

Sunset and Speedlights. Photo by Josh Baker, AzulOx

In February, I attended Imaging USA 2015 put on by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) in Nashville, TN.  I specifically needed to source out new vendors for my business at the massive photography expo offered at the event.  I was searching for a new high end fine art album maker and found exactly what I was looking for in Finao.  I struggled, however, with the rest of the conference, which I took very little away from.  Many teachers or speakers tried to cram the same amount of information that I learned in a hands on all day session at Anytime Light in Austin into a one hour presentation.  The massive lecture halls filled with hundreds walked away more confused than they entered.  I think huge conferences are great for certain things: networking and vendor sourcing specifically.  While I met some amazing photographers whom I still keep in touch with (shout out to Michael Faga and Jennifer Oates), I can’t say that I walked away with any specific educational knowledge at all, despite sitting in three days worth of one hour lectures.

This June, I’m looking forward to attending FOSTER 2015 led by Ben Sasso and Katch Silva.  FOSTER is a hands on workshop of education and discussion.  They will lead us in live shoots using natural light, posing, directing and then finally, leading discussions about the most important aspects of the wedding photography business including editing, workflow, social media, style and branding, client interaction and more.  It takes place in Joshua Tree and I’m ashamed to admit: I’ve never been there!

LGBT San Diego Wedding

Utilizing OCF for wedding photographers. Photo by Lauren Lindley, Lauren Lindley Photography.

What I’m most excited about this year, other than hosting my own wedding photography workshop here in Lake Tahoe, is that I was recently notified of my early acceptance into the prestigious and highly competitive Missouri Photo Workshop.  This year will be the 67th anniversary of the workshop, which moves to a different small town in Missouri every year documenting small town life.  For over six decades now, photographers from around the world have worked to visually tell the stories of the people and institutions that come together to make the community chosen for the year.  They are directed by David Rees and Jim Curley with the help of dozen talented faculty members and a team of University of Missouri students.  It will teach me the fundamentals of researching, shooting and editing while emphasizing ethical practices.  I am overwhelmed, honored and unbelievably ecstatic to be offered this experience!